“I have the confidence in using Cogent Sexed Semen, receiving excellent conception rates and great results, time and time again!”
James Yeatman manages Grange Farm in a family partnership alongside his husband and wife team, Gary & Paula. He is milking a herd of 340 Holstein-Friesians and followers, on 500 acres of land in Dorchester, Dorset. The farm yields almost 10,000 litres at 4% Butterfat and 3.3% Protein, trying to gain as much milk from forage as possible. His herd is Autumn block calving and aims for calving in nine weeks so is very focused on fertility to get the cows back in calf. Overall James’ herd conception rate is 44%. His first lactation heifers on their first service boasting conception rates of over 60% with sexed semen. Outside of managing the farm, James has also gained an insight into the international dairy industry of which he embarked on a scholarship as part of the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group. In 24 days he travelled around Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and America gaining a vast amount of knowledge and experience.
Herd health is the key to a profitable and sustainable dairy business. At Grange Farm, welfare and health targets are key to maintaining their Müller Tesco milk contract. To ensure this happens they follow a strict vaccination programme for BVD, leptospirosis, blackleg, and IBR. Johne’s is also strictly monitored by regular testing which has given the herd a “Johne’s free” accredited status.
With farmers and vets being implored to cut back on their antibiotic usage in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, Mr Yeatman has implemented just that. Milk producers like James who are members of the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG) are required to meet new guidelines and protocols on the use of antimicrobials. Farmers are required to report their usage on a quarterly basis and are audited via an annual inspection. One way Mr Yeatman has reduced his antibiotic usage is through improved ventilation in his calf sheds, which as a result has eliminated pneumonia outbreaks. The addition of ventilation tubes to the housing has dramatically improved the air-flow within the shed.
BREEDING AND FERTILITY
Fertility is a key driver in profitability and unproductive cows are not profitable for the dairy farmer. When selecting a sire, James focuses on, and recognises the value of the profitable lifetime index (PLI), and uses this as a tool to shape his herd, as well as following advice from Ed Pope, his Cogent Breeding Advisor. Calving ease is another important trait for Mr Yeatman, who has calved over 320 cows this year with no veterinary assistance. As a result, he has saved considerably on vet fees. He says: “I want cows to merge into the background, an easy to manage herd with no surprises.” James believes that the health of the animal is vital, explaining that “an easy calving the first time usually helps with future births; it’s like a rolling ball effect.”
Sexed semen is a vital breeding tool for Mr Yeatman. He has been using sexed semen since it began in 1999, and ensures that he only targets the correct cows to use sexed semen on within his herd. “I have confidence in using Cogent Sexed Semen, receiving excellent conception rates and great results time and time again!” he says.
A proven sire that has recently been introduced into the group at Grange Farm is Wintersell Milo, one of the most popular Holsteins available. He is extremely easy calving whilst carrying excellent health traits and high milk solids that perfectly suit the herd.
When choosing beef sires, Oakchurch De Admiral the Angus bull ticks all of the boxes for James with Ease of Management and Market Value. An easy calving cow with a short gestation is a must for his block calving system, with calves showing plenty of width and growth from an early age. Mr Yeatman is receiving an excellent profit on his beef calves which he is currently selling to a buyer off farm. “My extra beef calves more than cover the cost of the extra price for my sexed semen,” says James. Thurnton Picador is another of his favourites, with calves that are easily born and who produce leading market value.
Profitability is the key to keeping the business running smoothly and efficiently. Mr Yeatman explains that using sexed semen not only allows him to increase his herd size without having to spend large amounts on replacement heifers, but also avoids the disease risk of bringing in heifers from other farms, allowing Grange Farm to be a closed herd.
Additionally, with the use of sexed semen James has benefitted through having easier calvings, subsequently reducing his veterinary costs and future fertility problems.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE...
James believes that the future of the dairy industry will focus upon three main areas - animal welfare, the reduction of antibiotics, and use of sexed semen.